07/02/2014 10:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'Finding Yourself' in Need of a Therapist During Menopause

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2013-12-27-Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgResearchers now know that women are 70% more likely to suffer from depression than men and menopause’s hormonal roller coaster can aggravate the problem.  Experts say it’s time to slow down and realize that the mind-body connection is a powerful one.  And, much as we hate to admit it -- we’re not in charge of the universe -- even though sometimes we like to think so!

Caring for parents and kids while simultaneously chasing a paycheck wears you down.  Stir in a few menopausal hormones and you can easily find yourself overwhelmed, stressed and depressed.  However, psychiatrist Dr. Harry Croft, principal researcher at Clinical Trials of Texas, says learning to put yourself at the top of the list is critical to restoring a healthy balance.

“Women suffering from depression outnumber men by a two to one ratio and menopause can be the tipping point for seeking the help you need,” says Dr. Croft.

“Stress and menopause can make for an endless anxiety-riddled loop, requiring women to examine whether their current approach to managing their health is really working. For example, low estrogen can make you feel crummy and you won’t function as well.  Throw in lack of sleep due to insomnia or waking in the middle of the night and boom -- you’re super stressed,” explains Dr. Croft.

“Because of that stress women may recognize depression, anxiety and turn to self-medicating through alcohol consumption.  There is a huge rise of alcohol abuse in older folks because they don’t have to get a prescription to drink.  Many women closet drink and tell themselves it helps them relax, but might not recognize that they’re drinking because of stress.  Also, women build up a tolerance to the effects of liquor and then have to drink more to feel good.  Combine that with a prescription sleeping pill and you’ve got real trouble.”

Dr. Croft says a much smarter approach is to have a menopausal specialist run a hormonal panel.  Balancing menopausal hormones is an important first step to feeling better. Often, women find that hormone replacement therapy as recommended by their specialist is enough to get them in top shape.  If there is a need for further evaluation by a psychiatrist who might prescribe antidepressants, those meds work more effectively once hormonal levels are closer to normal, especially estrogen.

“These two specialists are critical at this stage of life,” explains Dr. Croft.  “A women’s gynecologist might just prescribe a hormone pill and not consider that there could be deeper mental health issues involved. Studies now show that depression is twice as high in women of all ages and hormonal stuff and extra life expectations can be unrealistic, immobilizing women who need to take action,” says Dr. Croft.

There are some simple, positive steps you can take right now to improve your quality of life.  We hear it time and again, but exercise is a critical component of a good, healthy lifestyle.   Many of us complain here about lack of time, but scientists have published new studies that show short bursts of intensive exercise, taking 10 minutes or less, are enough to get the job done by dramatically increasing oxygen consumption.  If you feel the need for something a little less dramatic, yoga is always an excellent alternative and can be modified to comply with any fitness level.  Even better news:  yoga actually improves sleep efficiency, as shown in a recent study.  Turns out, that is critical, too.

“The biggest thing to control is sleep,” says Dr. Croft.  “Not just getting to sleep, but maintaining uninterrupted sleep.  If women keep waking up, they won’t feel rested and stress will pop up again.”

So, ladies take off your superwoman cape and pause to reflect on implementing positive change in your menopausal life! Really, the only thing you’re in control of... is yourself!

Suffering in Silence is Out!  Reaching Out is In!

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Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women's health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through-before, during, and after menopause-with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a "sister" and confidant to all women fueled Ellen's first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers' requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen's weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

Menopause MondaysTM is a platform from which Ellen reaches the true needs of her readers through varied and substantive discussions of menopause, women's health, and the modern woman's life today as a menopausal woman. Her weekly newsletter provides readers the most current menopause news and research. With her updates, women gain access and the knowledge needed to take charge of their health and happiness. Her motto is: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

In addition to Ellen's ever-growing social media presence, has fast become "the place" on the web for informative and entertaining women's menopause and wellness engagement. Ellen is #1 on Dr. Oz Top 10 Social HealthMakers on Menopause. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, / Menopause Mondays was named first on the list of the "Best Menopause Blogs" by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women's health blogs.

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